Western High School’s Class of 2023 actually has 12 students in its “Top 10,” due to an apparent tie in their grades.
All but one of the top-ranking graduates in Western High School’s Class of 2023 is planning to attend college – Nathaniel McMillan, who earned his high school diploma and an associate’s degree, is planning to enter the workforce.
The other top-ranking seniors in the Class of 2023 at Western will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; N.C. State University in Raleigh; Elon University; Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina; the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana; Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona; and Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Valedictorian Joseph Leupold, 18, is the son of Chris and Helen Leupold of Gibsonville. He plans to attend the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana on a full scholarship to study finance.
Leupold has received a National Navy NROTC Scholarship that will cover his full tuition at Notre Dame ($240,000). He had also had been offered an academic scholarship from the University of South Carolina ($86,900); and a competitive admissions scholarship from the University of Alabama ($112,000).
Leupold says his favorite teachers and classes at Western were: Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus; AP Psychology; and AP U.S. Government and Politics. His teachers “were all very impactful for me in my time at Western and [I] appreciate them all so much,” Leupold tells The Alamance News.
Among his most memorable experiences as a Western Warrior was being part of the state championship soccer team during his junior year. In addition to playing soccer, Leupold volunteered in the community, and was a member of the lacrosse team, National Honor Society, and Spanish National Honor Society.
“[I am] most thankful to my parents for helping me to get here,” says Leupold. “My favorite thing about WA is the tradition, sports, and positive encouragement from teachers.”
Salutatorian Grayson Holt, 18, is the daughter of Matthew Holt and Tamara Smith of Elon.
Holt will head to Chapel Hill next month to attend Carolina, where she’s planning to major in political science on a pre-law track, she tells the newspaper.
Like valedictorian Joseph Leupold, Holt also says her favorite classes at Western were AP Psychology; Government and Politics; and AP Calculus.
Holt says her most memorable experience during high school was “following the soccer team all the way through state playoffs and seeing their eventual state championship win in 2021.”
Holt’s extracurricular activities included: volleyball; swim; track; Interact Club; Student Council, National Honor Society; the Kids Helping Wish Kids Club (a program affiliated with the Make-a-Wish foundation); and DREAM Team, a youth mentoring program.
“My favorite thing about [Western] is the family-like feeling everyone in the community has. Almost no one is a stranger and everyone loves everyone,” Holt tells the newspaper.
The other Top 10 students in Western High School’s class of 2023 are, in alphabetical order:
Zachary Allred, 18, is the son of William and Jacquelyn Allred of Gibsonville. He plans to attend Clemson University to major in engineering, for which he has received $88,000 in scholarships and grants from the university.
Allred says his favorite classes at Western were AP Chemistry and AP U.S. History; and his most memorable experience was “being in the stands to watch the soccer team win a state championship.” Allred was a member of the National Honor Society and student council and played on the Warriors’ soccer, swim, and tennis teams.
“I have loved playing tennis and soccer. My favorite thing about [Western] is the people and friendships I have made,” says the rising Clemson University freshman.
Kamille Benson, 18, is the daughter of Jenny and Brian Benson of Reidsville. She is planning to attend Grand Canyon Univeristy’s Honors College in Phoenix, Arizona, where she intends to major in Business Management and Finance.
Benson has received a Chancellor’s Scholarship for $18,400 from Grand Canyon University.
Benson’s favorite classes at Western were English and Weightlifting, she tells the newspaper. In addition to serving on the student council and as a member of the National Honor Society, she also worked during high school.
“My favorite thing about [Western High School was] the teachers who took their time to create a space for me to make mistakes, learn, and grow academically and overall as a person,” Benson recalls for the newspaper.
Jacob Carignan, 18, who’s the son of Paula Rosinski and Mike Carignan of Elon, is planning to attend Elon University to major in Business Finance. Carignan has received $31,000 in scholarships from Elon University and had been offered $122,000 in scholarship money by Michigan State University.
Carignan cites AP Psychology and Economics as his favorite classes during his time at Western; and his most memorable experience “was shredding [the] entire [Western] defense for multiple goals and assists in our last soccer game” – and winning the state championship in soccer.
In addition to playing for the Warriors’ varsity soccer and football teams, Carignan was a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Club.
Connor Chinnici, 18, is the son of Amy and James Chinnici of Burlington. He will head to Chapel Hill next month to attend Carolina, where he plans to major in Biology and minor in Public Policy, while pursuing a pre-med track.
Chinnici has received a $10,000 scholarship through the State Employees’ Credit Union and a $1,000 scholarship from the North Carolina Troopers Association.
His favorite classes at Western, Chinnici recalls, included AP Calculus; AP U.S. Government and Politics; and AP Research.
Chinnici held a number of leadership roles during his time at Western High School, which included: serving as student body president; president of Lead the Way; vice president of the Warrior Buddies club; and on the executive board for Interact Club. He was also captain of the swim team; a member of the National Honor Society; a student representative for Western on the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Board; and as a member of the Arc of Alamance County, a human rights coalition based in Burlington.
Chinnici has also worked as a server at the Cutting Board in Burlington.
“My favorite clubs have been Student Council and Warrior Buddies,” Chinnici says of his time at Western, adding, “The teachers/staff and administration are amazing.”
Shepherd Goodwin, 17, who’s the son of Dawn and Todd Goodwin of Burlington, plans to head to the state capital city next month to attend N.C. State University, where he intends to major in business. Goodwin has received $66,400 in scholarships and grants from N.C. State University, as well as a $1,000 scholarship from Spectrum News.
Goodwin says his favorite classes were sports marketing and AP U.S. History because his teachers for those classes “are great with their students and are amazing at their job.”
Goodwin says his favorite memory from high school was “having Spectrum News follow me around school for a day, documenting my experience with friends, teachers, and class work.”
Goodwin played baseball for the Warriors and was a member of the National Honor Society. He is also employed at Laser X, a laser tag arcade along Church Street in Burlington.
“My favorite thing about [Western],” says Goodwin, “is the school spirit and community surrounding us.”
Tigue Hipps, 18, is the son of Tim and Kristin Hipps of Gibsonville. Hipps also will be attending N.C. State University, along with his fellow Western alum Goodwin.
Hipps is planning to pursue a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, and hopefully go on to earn a doctoral degree in the field. He has received $34,536 in academic grants from N.C. State University.
Like many of his fellow top-ranking graduates in Western’s Class of 2023, Hipps also says his favorite classes were AP Government and Politics and AP Calculus.
His most memorable experience during his school was “getting to play with the marching band while dressed in a suit for homecoming this past year,” Hipps tells the newspaper.
In addition to playing in the marching band, Hipps was a member of the swim team; was a lifeguard and swim coach; and ran track and field.
“My favorite thing about [Western was] the teachers are genuinely interested in both you as a person and teaching you the content in their classes,” Hipps recalls.
Nathaniel McMillan, 18, is the son of Ken and Holly McMillan of Burlington. In addition to his high school diploma, McMillan also graduated last month with a two-year associate’s degree from Alamance Community College, which he plans to use to enter the workforce.
“My time spent at Western Alamance High School helped create me into the person I am today,” McMillan explains. “Thanks to the school, I learned to be strong-willed and independent. I learned that if I wanted to achieve something I would have to learn to do so on my own, without the help of others.
“I learned that if I wanted to excel, I had to have a good work ethic and great determination,” McMillan elaborates. “I was also taught the value and importance of communication. All in all, I am [grateful] that I was able to have the opportunity to achieve college level education along with a [two-] year degree, in the same time that most people only receive a high school diploma. While this hard path was full of stress and struggle, it was definitely worth it in the end.”
In addition to participating in the Future Farmers of America, McMillan is also a volunteer firefighter.
Olivia Plunkett, 18, the daughter of Clay and Jill Plunkett of Elon, is planning to attend UNC-Chapel Hill to major in Public Relations/Advertising in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
Plunkett says some of her favorite teachers were those in several of her AP classes “because of their active and consistent engagement and efforts to help their students succeed.” Her most memorable experience at Western was when the soccer team won the state championship two years ago, Plunkett tells the newspaper.
During her spare time in high school, Plunkett served as captain of the varsity dance team; as student body vice president; secretary of the Spanish Honors Society; and was a member of the National Honor Society, Interact Club, and the Kids Helping Wish Kids Club. She also participated in recreational and competitive dance and volunteered, Plunkett tells the newspaper.
“I’ve loved being on dance team all [four] years and the community I’ve built through that program,” Plunkett adds. “I have also loved student council and being able to improve my leadership skills. Western has a strong sense of community. I also like that every staff member wants their students to succeed and truly cares about their students.”
Jenna Standafer, 17, who’s the daughter of Greg and Elizabeth Standafer of Elon, also plans to head to Chapel Hill next month to attend Carolina, where she has been given a merit scholarship for $44,000, in addition to scholarships from several other universities.
“All of my areas of involvement were great, but Wish Kids in particular allowed me to support a cause that is very special to me,” Standafer tells the newspaper. Her favorite experience at Western High School was leading the student section during football games, Standafer adds.
In addition to the Kids Helping Wish Kids club, Standafer also served on the Student Council at Western and participated in the National Honor Society, DREAM Team, Interact Club, and Young Life. She also played volleyball and soccer for the Warriors.
“My favorite thing about [Western was] the family feel, spirit, and support that is fostered in the Warrior community,” says Standafer.
Barbara Williams, 17, who’s the daughter of Karen and Shelton Williams of Elon, will head to the nation’s capital next month to attend The Catholic University of America, where she plans to study politics and, possibly, law, in order to “use my education to make a difference in the world.”
Williams has received more than $208,000 in scholarships and grants from Catholic University, as well than more than $140,000 in scholarships offered by other universities and organizations.
“I would say that my favorite class I have taken is AP Human Geography, because of the fascinating content and the amazing teacher,” Williams says of her time at Western. Her proudest accomplishment, she adds, was “hitting the final notes in the incredible song of Legally Blonde.”
In addition to performing with Western High School’s drama club, Williams was a member of the high school’s “Frequency” club and National Honor Society.
“The [Western High School] Cultural Arts Department has been something of a second home to me these last four years,” Williams recalls. “I can’t tell you how much I will miss the art we create in this program and of course the amazing, talented people.”
Read previous stories about the top graduates from other Alamance County high schools: